Hilltop Lancers are off to strong start in new season

HILLTOP ENTERS WEEK WITH 4-0 RECORD, NO. 2 IN SECTION DIVISION II POWER RANKINGS

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Nikos Kapetanios races toward the net in Hilltop's Sept. 15 non-league game against West Hills at the Parkway pool. Photo by Phillip Brents

The boys water polo season has been somewhat slow to start due to pool scheduling issues, but it looks to be heating up through the end of regular season play in October.

Hilltop, the 2021 spring Metro-South Bay League champion, had played just four games entering this week, all lopsided victories, including a 26-13 win over Olympian on Sept. 29 to face off 2021 fall Mesa League play.

The Lancers previously had defeated Mount Miguel (23-1 on Aug. 27), Bonita Vista (29-16 on Aug. 31) and West Hills (20-6 on Sept. 15) in non-league play.

John Salts, the school’s boys soccer and junior varsity baseball coach, has taken over as interim head coach of the team while program director Ernie Medina remains on administrative leave because of health-related reasons.

Salts is assisted by Sergio Carreon, the team’s assistant under Medina.

“I’m here but I consider this team to be Ernie and Sergio’s,” Salts explained. “Coach Sergio has been an amazing piece to the system, stepping up and providing a steady stream of positive coaching for the boys. Coach Ernie has stayed in constant contact providing support both on the phone and with a few visits to the pool. His visits really uplift the boys and pump them up.”

Hilltop has been charting new waters since placing runner-up in June’s San Diego Section Division III championship game to Ramona, a gut-wrenching 6-5 setback in the game’s final six seconds that drove a stake through the team’s undefeated season.

The Lancers, 15-0 to that point, had been vying to become the first team at the school to conclude an undefeated season through the championship playoffs.

While Salts said the team mentions last season’s ending from time to time, the team’s focus remains on improving this season as it moves up to the Division II competition level.

Entering this week, the Lancers sat in a lofty No. 2 position in the Division II power rankings behind No. 1 El Capitan (7-1).

Salts admits the team will be tested in the final weeks of the regular season in advance of playoff seeding.

“We’re heading into a very busy next two weeks with six matches this week between league games and tournaments,” Salts said.  “We have seven matches next week between four league matches, including some rescheduled matches, and a three-match tournament on Saturday.  It will be physically as well as mentally demanding on these boys, especially with the small team we have this season. The eight-man varsity roster will be tested over this next two weeks.”

Salts said the team appears to be responding to the challenge thus far.

“The team chemistry has been building and the boys are working very hard on the finer details that will hopefully make the difference between during this grueling two-week period,” Salts said. “We have a strong mix of players who have been putting in the work to better themselves and the team. It is really nice to step in and see the boys push themselves and encourage their teammates at the same time. They are really stepping up for each other.”

Aidan Garces paced Hilltop with eight goals in the win over West Hills while Raul Rico chipped in with five goals. Petros and Nikos Kapetanios both scored two goals while Jason Esquivel, Evan Rodriguez and Liam Romero each contributed one goal.

The Wolf Pack was limited to single goals from six players.

 

 

MESA LEAGUE WATER POLO SCOREBOARD
Wednesday, Sept. 29
Hilltop 26, Olympian 13
Eastlake 19, Mater Dei Catholic 5

Friday, Oct. 1
Mater Dei Catholic 12, Olympian 10
Eastlake 16, Otay Ranch 9

 

SOUTH BAY LEAGUE WATER POLO SCOREBOARD
Thursday, Sept. 16
Bonita Vista 24, San Ysidro 3

Wednesday, Sept. 29
Southwest 5, Chula Vista 0
Castle Park 16, Montgomery 5

Friday, Oct. 1
Southwest 17, San Ysidro 7
Castle Park 5, Chula Vista 0

 

NON-LEAGUE WATER POLO SCOREBOARD
Thursday, Sept. 9
Castle Park 21, Olympian 5
Monte Vista 14, San Ysidro 6

Friday, Sept. 10
Castle Park 21, Monte Vista 11
Helix 17, Otay Ranch 3

Monday, Sept. 13
Canyon Hills 24, San Ysidro 7

Tuesday, Sept. 14
Castle Park 21, High Tech High San Diego 15
Otay Ranch 20, Monte Vista 10

Wednesday, Sept. 15
Castle Park 19, Mira Mesa 12
Canyon Hills 16, Olympian 6
El Capitan 25, Otay Ranch 15

Thursday, Sept. 16
Francis Parker 17, Mater Dei Catholic 2

Friday, Sept. 17
Valley Center 18, Otay Ranch 7

Wednesday, Sept. 22
Castle Park 24, Canyon Hills 19
Olympian 8, Montgomery 5

Friday, Sept. 24
Otay Ranch 23, Mira Mesa 17

Thursday, Sept. 30
El Capitan 15, Bonita Vista 6

Hilltop Lancers are off to strong start in new season